An Interview with Joseph Shemesh, CEO, Celebros
At the end of the day, what online retailers care about is sales – and more sales. That is why it is best to focus optimization efforts on actual conversions, rather than other web site metrics such as page views, visitors, or even engagements. Celebros offer a modular solution of high-end technologies and tools – based on Natural Language Processing – to help eCommerce sites optimize and improve their conversion rates.
I chatted with Celebros CEO Joseph Shemesh about the benefits of their approach to conversion optimization. He also shared some interesting analysis and thoughts on how online purchasing is affected by the increasing use of mobile devices.
HostAdvice: You’ve been around technology and startups for quite a while. Tell me a little bit about your background and experience.
I know I am dating myself with this, but when I was 13, all my friends took their Bar-Mitzvah money and bought bicycles. I bought a Sinclair 16K computer.
Yes, I have been around technology companies for many years. I have run and sold several startups and I have also worked for VCs (Venture Capitalists) and have mentored startups.
I joined Celebros in July 2015. We are investing in R&D and using the latest technologies.
HostAdvice: It seems like Celebros is related to the company SeeVolution – is that correct?
Yes, we have a big equity stake in SeeVolution. We are currently working to merge the two companies.
HostAdvice: What exactly is the Celebros software? Let’s start with explaining your tagline: “Humanizing Search - Natural Language Site Search, Navigation and Merchandizing for the 21st Century.”
The core technology of Celebros is NLP – Natural Language Processing. Our engine is designed to better understand what a visitor is really looking for, which is significantly better than standard textual search which is based just on words.
It is important for me to emphasize that we are not selling search (or a search engine). What we are selling is conversions and search is only one of the tools. On top of that, we also provide a set of tools.
For example, our merchandising engine uses machine learning to improve cross sell, by identifying and promoting complementary products to a visitor. These recommendations go beyond the common “coherent” suggestions such as promoting batteries, memory cards, and a flash unit to someone who has purchased a camera. We suggest also “non-coherent” products to visitors based on their user profile and purchase history, which means that we might promote a nightgown to a visitor who has purchased a camera.
HostAdvice: Can you describe some of the other tools and modules?
We have several additional features such as a product and gift finder a.k.a “guided shopping and our intelligent navigation which modifies the site’s navigation based on visitor search results.
As you mentioned earlier, we also have a stand-alone tool called SeeVolution for creating and monitoring customer behavior using heat maps where and how visitors click, scroll, and move their mouse on a web site. There are a lot of heat map products on the market, so let me mention how ours is different:
- Data is available as an overlay on any page of a web site.
- Data is displayed and updated in real-time.
- Data can be aggregated and displayed as a heat map over a period of time.
- Tracking of where clicks are coming from.
- Advanced filtering based on device, OS, time of visits, form analytics, and defined goals.
- Easy entry-level tool with multiple account levels, including full-featured free account.
HostAdvice: Rather than offering videos or extensive screenshots of your technologies, your web site asks the user to schedule a demo with you. Why is that? Are the tools so complicated?
No, not at all. But our advanced search functionality is customized for each web site. Also, in our experience these demos are very productive in that we can interactively show potential customers how we can help them with their specific issues.
HostAdvice: Who do you define as your target market? Is there is specific target audience within that market?
Our product is targeted to eCommerce retails with at least $2 Million in annual revenues.
HostAdvice: There is no mention of WordPress or WooCommerce on your web site. Do you not support those platforms?
We don’t really support those platforms. In our experience, WordPress is mainly an entry-level platform, whereas Celebros is focused on the higher end and medium-enterprise side of the business . Our solution is meant for sites with enough business to justify the investment in our product. WordPress eCommerce sites are usually too small for us – although we have worked with them in the past.
We are, however, the sole Hybris Gold Certified Site Search Partner and Magneto’s only Premier Site Search Partner which are both a huge testament to our technologies and solutions.
HostAdvice: How many active customers do you have today? Where are they mainly located?
We currently have over 300 customers. About 70% of them are in the US and the rest are mainly in Europe, with a few in Asia.
HostAdvice: How would you describe your current typical customer?
Our typical customer is a large eCommerce web site with at least $2 Million in gross annual sales. Our customers can be found across every vertical that can be found and sold online. We currently provide our solutions to customers in over 15 different languages globally.
HostAdvice: Who are some of your biggest customers?
HostAdvice: Why isn’t there any pricing information on the web site?
We can’t offer a fixed pricing table for our solution. It varies and depends on a variety of variables, such as the size of the product catalog and the volume of searches and visitors.
I can tell you that our pricing is modular, based on a site’s specific needs, and starts at about $800/month.
HostAdvice: Who do you see as your main competitors?
We have several healthy competitors that can be found across the mid-tier to enterprise search vertical. We find that most of our customers are SOLR, Elastic Search, Endeca and SLI expats who are all textual search providers.”
HostAdvice: How do you see your tools as different and/or as better than theirs?
I think the main differentiator is the fact that we are based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) and other solutions are still based on textual search. NLP has proven to provide better conversion rates, as you can see in the case studies on our web site.
HostAdvice: Your web site describes two types of partners that you have – platforms and integrators. Can you talk about that a little bit
Platforms work with us directly. Examples would be BigCommerce, Magento, and SAP Hybris. Shopify and BigCommerce etc Integrators work with us during the implementation process on behalf of their customers.
HostAdvice: How do you see e-commerce and online retailing evolving in the next few years?
Oh – that is one of my favorite topics for discussion! eCommerce is clearly going mobile. In Asia, 2/3 of online purchases are made on mobile devices, while in the US that number is only 1/3. That means that online retailers – and us – need to focus on and learn how to drive conversions on mobile devices.
Conversion rates on mobile devices are currently 1/3 lower that on desktop and laptop devices. I see two main reasons for this:
- People find it hard to use mobile devices to make purchases.
- More than 50% of searches for merchandise are done via Amazon (30% via Google).
Amazon has a mobile app to make it easy, but people are not going to download apps from all of the different online stores. Therefore, online stores need to provide more/better features and user experiences. They need to focus on better search, navigation, and product recommendations.
Another difference in mobile is that searches are often done by voice, rather than text. That is why we are currently working on a module for search by voice, which we hope to bring to market relatively soon.
HostAdvice: What are your future plans for Celebros?
We are working hard on voice search, but it still has a long way to go. We are also working on predictive search, which is something that gets better and better as we have more data to work with. We have more than enough to keep us busy…
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? Where are they located?
We currently have 20-22 employees, located in Israel, Germany, and the US.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
I usually work 11-12 hours per day, which should not surprise you. I am a big fan of tennis and try play whenever I can, including in the USTA (Unites States Tennis Association) league. I also enjoy skiing, mountain biking, and reading.